US nonfarm employers added 252,000 jobs to their payrolls in December. That's just over the 245,000 that economists expected, according to Bloomberg. The unemployment rate also slipped from 5.8 to 5.6 percent.
The headline payrolls figure helps finish out a strong year for job creation — the strongest of annual job growth since 1999, in fact, with nearly 3 million jobs added last year.
But there are a few discouraging signs: wages in fact fell, with average hourly wages falling by 5 cents, to $24.57. That nearly wipes out November's strong, 6-cent gain.
The labor force participation rate also fell from 62.9 to 62.7 percent. That's the share of Americans either looking for jobs or working. The total labor force shrank by 273,000. This shows that the decline in the unemployment rate wasn't just because of more people finding work; it was also because of people stopping looking, for whatever reason.
Morever, both this and the wage figure show that in December, slack in the labor market didn't dissipate like many analysts were hoping.